Thursday, December 30, 2010

For abdul666 - more on Native artillery

Abdul666 posted a comment on the earlier post regagding native artillery seeking further information on the bullock pulled artillery platforms used by the Bengali army at Plassey.

There are numerous mentions of the bullock drawn artillery used by the Bengali army at Plassey. Unfortunately, most of these are from later Victorian accounts.

These later accounts seem to be based upon two contemporary accounts. The first is A History of the Military Transactions of the British National in Indostand from the year MDCCXLV, published 1763 and written by Robert Orme. Orme was as a Member of the Council at Fort St. George, Madras between 1754 and 1758 and one of those who ordered Clive to march against the Bengalis.

The other account is A Voyage from England to India in the year MDCCLVI and a Historical Narrative of Operations of the Squadron and Army in India, written by Edward Ives. Ives was the ships surgeon on the Kent between 1753 and 1757. The Kent was the flagship of Vice Admiral Watson, Commander-in-Chief in the East Indies. Ives was a witness to many of the events described and, if I recall, was present at Plassey.

Between these two accounts it is clear that the native artillery were 18, 24 and 32 lb. guns, each mounted on platforms dragged by 40 or 50 yoke of white oxen and nudged into position by elephants. Ives states that the enemy:

…attempted to bring their heavy artillery to bear, but they met with so warm a reception, and lost so many draught-oxen and drivers, that they failed in their attempt.

Ives also refers to three elephants being killed and the rest becoming “unruly”! The oxen also became terrified by the gunfire and stampeded. You get the idea that this system may not have been trialled before the battle... 

Ives also refers to the piece-meal use of the artillery by the Bengalis – something out of the norm for them. Usually, native artillery was used in mass batteries. On this occasion they were used in groups of three or so guns, resulting in more desultory fire than usual.

As regards a model, or what the platforms looked like, I can do no better than post the above picture of the model in the Dorsetshire Regimental museum. This unit is the successor to Aldercron’s 39th Regiment which was present at Plassey. I have read somewhere that the gun carriages were of European style, not native, although I can’t recall the source of that statement at the moment.

1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for kindly answering -and satisfying my curiosity!

    Best and more sincere wishes,